Bits about software development, and about some other forms of art too...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Software Factory vs Usine Logicielle

Software Factory is a term that has been very closely related to Microsoft, ever since the company began promoting it. In this two pages advertisement (June 2004), you can read :

A software factory is a product line that configures extensible development tools like Microsoft Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) with packaged content and guidance, carefully designed for building specific kinds of applications.

P3080003The advertisement is a mashup of a 666 pages book named "Software Factories". The book is a complete tour of what a Software Factory is, written in a rather heavy and poor style, which is probably why a lot of people still argue about the term definition.

But even more controversial, I found, is its french translation : literally "Usine Logicielle". Read Keith Short (co-author of the above cited book) in this article :

"The key is not to think of a factory like a turn-of-the-century sweatshop," Short says. "The image we’d like people to have in mind when they see the word ‘factory’ is much more like a production line staffed by robots, where humans are doing the creative tasks in setting up the production line, but the rote or menial steps are done by robots."

So what am I supposed to think of when I read this article in 01 Informatique, a quite renowned french magazine, about Software Factory plants ? It describes how software developers are packed in production centers (I am to blame for the translation) :

Pour planifier, suivre et réagir au plus vite, le responsable de production s'appuie sur une multitude de tableaux de bord. D'ailleurs, à voir le PC de Benoît Mompon, on se croirait dans la cabine de pilotage d'un avion long courrier. Voyants, tableaux, et graphiques en tout genre lui fournissent en temps réel les indicateurs de productivité, d'avancement des projets, de niveau de satisfaction des clients. (...) Il s'agirait donc, à première vue, d'une simple transposition des pratiques de l'industrie. A une nuance près : « Ce sont des hommes, et non des machines que nous gérons », martèle Benoît Mompon.

In order to establish plans, follow them and still be highly reactive, the production manager relies on many indicators. Benoît Mompon's computer could easily make you think you were in a long-flight jet cockpit. Indicators, tables and graphs of many kinds provide him with real-time metrics for productivity, projects advancement, clients satisfaction level. (...) It would seem, at first sight, like a simple transposition of standard industry methods. With one nuance though : « We are dealing with men, not machines », hammers Benoît Mompon.

PC100091No April's fools, no joke, no false friends : some people here do think (and I suspect dream) that a Software Factory can be a sweatshop ! Let them do.

More common now are people who think a Software Factory is in fact a set of breaking edge and almost never heard of but allegedly highly efficient tools like Software Configuration Management, Unit Testing, Bug Tracking, Continuous Integration server... Yes, it seems actually that a vast majority of open source projects would be based on a Software Factory (without most of them being aware of it, I guess ;-) ! Take a look at NovaForge, which is exactly that : the english version reads "software forge" (subtle difference), while the french version reads "usine de développement logicielle" (no difference at all).

But the worst part is that even Microsoft France uses the term "Usine Logicielle" in this acception. In this success story description, they describe how, by automating their tests and their deployment (thanks to VSTS, of course), they could create "une véritable usine de développement logiciel".  Well, excuse me, but I see it more like a way to get the 4 cheapest points (out of 12) in the the Joel Test. 4 is far better than 0 allright, but this is far from giving you a Software Factory !

I am working on an actual Software Factory at NourY Solutions right now. And we are going all the way through our product line definition, our Software Factory Schema definition, our Domain Specific Languages definition. We are creating our own set of tools as well as configuring existing ones, developing our own set of libraries as well as integrating existing ones. Our work is still incomplete, but one thing is for sure : there is far more to a Software Factory than to use Subversion and CruiseControl. I even took it for granted that nobody could seriously develop software without these tools anyway ;-)

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Flash Player update

I have had a few problems lately with my blog : YouTube videos would not appear any more. I have tried to fix it in many ways (like embedding with javascript instead of HTML), but to no avail. Then I noticed that they would play correctly in Internet Explorer 7 (I am using Firefox 2.0). Filled with despair, I updated my Flash Player plugin from version to version, and eureka !

You can check here what your current version is. So my advice is : stay up to date !


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Imagine (there is no countries)

According to the BBC, which uncovered recently declassified documents, France's Head of Council Guy Mollet proposed in 1956 to United Kingdom's Prime Minister Anthony Eden that the two countries be merged. The latter wisely discarded the proposal, but The Independent had a little fun imagining what the hypothetical nation could have achieved :

Fifty years on, we might have blended the best of France and the best of Britain. On the other hand, we might have shared our faults. France might have had our public transport and health systems. We might have had the ramshackle, French university system. We might have had French rates of unemployment. They might have had the London Tube, instead of the Metro.

We both might have ended up with French TV, British hospital waiting lists, the French police, British estate agents, French trades unions, British school dinners, French plumbers and Scottish joie de vivre.

Well, I guess the thought of it is equally scary from this side of the Channel (try to imagine a nation that shared French humour, British food, French musicals...). And we certainly would not have accepted too much mockery at our auld friends the Scots.

Furthermore, I do think that the world is a better place having both views on the world, both attitudes. Admit at least that it would be far more dull than it is today. Take for instance the United Nations Security Council Meeting on the 14th february 2003 : in this moment of history, I think that the very spirit of both nations is summed up. Let me refresh your memory :

So let me be glad that history has let us retain our identities, though it could have easily been the other way at times :

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Malia is back (or is she ?)

I was so thrilled last month when I learned that Malia was to release her new album on the 16th april : less than a week from now !

Alas, her website still has to be filled with actual ... content, and it seems now, according to her MySpace site as well as to Amazon, that it will in fact be released on the 14th may :-( Meanwhile, here is a teaser made up from a showcase at the Pershing Hall Hotel in Paris :

I just cannot wait to listen to the whole thing ! Anyway I will have to... But she promised she would be there on the 9th 12th september. This summer will sure be a long one.

Update : (04/11/2007) her concert is now scheduled on the 12th september...

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